Elisabetta Sirani was a born and bred Italian girl, dark locks and all. She was born in Bologna, Italy in 1638. Her father, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, was a Baroque painter of the School of Bologna. Upon reaching childhood Elisabetta began her training as a painter with her father. The girl had talent. She was encouraged to pursue art seriously by Count Carlo Cesare Malvasia, a family friend and prominent art critic. Luckily for Elisabetta, Bologna was the hub of progressive attitudes towards women’s rights. The city was known for breeding successful female artists.
Baroque art is characterized by its great drama, deep colors, and the expert use of intense light and swallowing shadows. Elisabetta definitely fit the mold. Her paintings utilized the contrasts of light and dark, as well as great movement.
Elisabetta was a force to be reckoned with when it came to creating. She was an amazing painting who could construct complex paintings in a flash. She was The Zorro of the Paintbrush to say the least. Her efficiency when it came to painting is what drew people to her. She painted the majority of her larger and heavy-themed works publicly in her studio. Yes, crowds of people actually travelled to her studio to watch her work. That’s quite the indicator of how great she must’ve been.
By the age of 17, Elisabetta was a full-fledged engraver and painter with at least 90 works completed. Her fans spanned the globe and overlapped social classes. Some of her works even made it to the walls of the wealthy, noble, and even royal citizens of Italy. The Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici has an Elisabetta Sirani original on his wall.
At the age of 19, Elisabetta was an independent painter and the operator of the family’s workshop. She was forced to take over the business when her father was diagnosed with gout. With the primary breadwinner of the household ill, the burden of supporting the family fell on Elisabetta’s shoulders. The stress of responsibility is assumed to be the cause of her early death.
Elisabetta died suddenly after complaining of severe stomach pain. Initially the family accused the maid of poisoning Elisabetta. The servant went to trial, but was aquitted of the charges stacked against her. An autopsy later revealed numerous lacerations in Elisabetta’s stomach. The stress had caused stomach ulcers.
Elisabetta Sirani only lived to be 27 years old. Between the ages of 19 and 27, Elisabetta created at least 80 works bringing her life total to around 200. She left behind quite a legacy as well. Her younger sisters carried on her dream and her works are known worldwide.
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